Where are the standouts, the ones whose countenance drips with the overflowing presence of the living God? Our leaders have failed us. They have told us that an acceptance of Christ—and no more—is sufficient. They have lied. Where are the leaders, the ones who have not compromised their faith to build an organization? The fact is, the church lives in a state of compromise. Whether it be the fear of man, apathy, or a failure to internally reconcile a depraved life with a spirit that understands the requirements of the Holy, our lives fail to appeal to those who have no hope. We have placed more than one foot in the world. In his book The Christian Ministry with an Inquiry Into the Causes of its Inefficiency, Rev. Charles Bridges illustrates this very point.
It is but too plain, that we have lost that distinction of “Servant of Christ,” which it would have been our honor to have preserved; that our Christian prudence has degenerated into worldly cowardice; and that our conversation with the world has been regulated by the fear of man, fleshly indulgence, and practical unbelief of the most solemn warnings of the gospel.
We should endeavor to make religion agreeable; but not to make ourselves agreeable by leading our company to forget religion. We should ‘every one of us, please his neighbor for his good;’ but not so ‘please men,’ as to fail in the character of ‘Servants of Christ.’
Leaders who find themselves in a situation where change is needed are left powerless by many churches to initiate the change. The church has become too comfortable in their “method” of worship and if one seeks to change it, they will die upon the sacred alter of complacency. At this point, the weaker leader will simply give up, another disillusioned leader, beaten into submission by fear. Things really must change. It starts with education.
Today, the average church member—pardon the generalization—is either too involved (locked into their own comfortable method) or too removed from the process of healthy church life. Those that are too involved rule the roost, viewing a pastor as an employee and not a called man of God. Those on the other end of the spectrum are simply anonymous Christians, punching in and punching out, doing their “hours” that qualify them at the entrance gate to an eternal “E-Ticket” ride. Meanwhile, the middle—the ones who understand that an abiding relationship with Father and the evangelistic sharing of His grace is paramount—is shrinking. Personal revival and corporate church repentance and growth are rare today. We have grown far too selfish. If you mention to the first group that the method to reach others must change, the leader will face formidable obstacles and may even lose his “job.” To the later, if you start changing things around, they will simply move on, not understanding what it means to be called to a body of believers. What is the answer?
The answer lies in a deeply relational, educating of the masses to understand the heart of God. Just as we see God’s method changing over time, so must we change. Even the disciples and the writers of the gospel changed their methodology for their given audience. Think of how Matthew’s appeal to the Jews takes a very different form that Luke’s appeal to the Gentiles. As leaders, we must specifically tailor everything we do for our personal context. If I had one wish for young leaders, it would be that they throw away every “church growth” book and discover what—precisely—Father wants them to do. That leader must understand that he was hand chosen for the work God has prepared for him to do, and only he can do it. He has an obligation to seek the will of God until he finds it. To jump early, or to lead according to the dictates or expectations of man is sinful. That ministry will not last. Nor will such a ministry result in the level of praise to the Son that Father desires for it to give. We must be very calculated and careful in our attempts to lead the church. The leading is at Father’s direction and not by the dictates of the masses.
Each of us will find ourselves in this piece, however, we must look carefully at who we think that we are. The pastor who reads this and insists; “Yeah, those church members are strangling me in every attempt to lead the church” must first ask himself if has truly sought the Lord’s direction in where he is leading. That the direction in which he seeks to lead his congregation has been intimately, directionally spelled out by Father. Likewise, the congregant who says; “My pastor is changing everything. It’s arbitrary and destructive and he needs to go” must tread lightly as he plays with the call of a man of God. Many a struggle with Godly leaders is not a human struggle at all, but a revolt against the very will of God at the calling of that man to lead. Tread lightly. The beginning of an answer to all of these struggles is the prayerful, patient seeking of Father’s specific will and direction for the cultural context in which he has placed all parties. Until that primary foundation is laid, nothing fruitful can be constructed. The leader in today’s church does not have an easy road ahead. It is one of great struggle, but also of great reward.
John Maxwell states the following in his book, Developing the Leader within You.
Leaders can never take their people farther than they have traveled. Like leader, like people … God’s gift to the leader is his potential. His gift back to God is what he does with that potential.